Harvest for Hunger drive to benefit Montana Food Bank Network

Anyone who wants to help feed the hungry in Montana can double the impact of their donation during the CHS Harvest for Hunger fund and food drive.

The drive to benefit the Montana Food Bank Network begins March 1, and CHS Inc. has pledged to match each monetary donation made until March 16.

“We’re a farmer-owned organization,” said Chuck Thompson, general manager for the Mountain West Co-ops, which are local CHS cooperatives. “Agriculture is probably one of the bright spots of the economy right now. There are other areas that aren’t so bright, so our company as a whole decided this is a good thing to do and give back to our communities.”

During the drive, participating CHS stores will have donation forms available at the cash registers. Co-op members will receive forms in the mail, Thompson said.

Food donations will be accepted as well, but the focus is on monetary donations because of the Montana Food Bank Network’s ability to obtain low-cost food and grocery products. With the organization’s buying power, $1 can buy enough food for seven meals, said Kathryn McCleerey, chief development officer for the Montana Food Bank Network.

“It is really, right now, the best opportunity that I know for people to really make any contribution they give go a long, long ways toward ending hunger in Montana,” McCleerey said. “(CHS) will double it if somebody donates $10; with this program, it’s enough for 140 meals.”

Food bank statistics show that one in seven Montanans struggle with hunger, and one in five Montana children are struggling with hunger. More than two-thirds of Montana counties are considered to be in “food deserts.”

“That means access to food is very limited. They just can’t get to where food is, so we get the food to them,” McCleerey said.

Compounding the tough economic times is the fact that food prices have raised more than 5 percent in the past year.

“The demand is higher than ever, right at the time when government funding is being pulled back. We’re still keeping pretty close to keeping up, but it’s only because of individuals stepping up,” McCleerey said.

The Montana Food Bank Network distributes donated and low-cost food and grocery products to nearly 200 hunger relief agencies throughout Montana. Funds raised through the Harvest for Hunger drive will benefit these partner agencies.

In 2011, the network distributed almost eight million pounds of food across the state, with $1million less in government funding and half the staff it had in 2010, McCleerey said.

Mountain West has co-ops in Missoula, Ronan and Stevensville. Donations will also be accepted at Milk River Co-op in Chinook, the CHS in Cut Bank, the CHS in Havre, the CHS in Kalispell and Central Montana Co-op in Lewistown.

This is the second year CHS has sponsored Harvest for Hunger, but the first year Mountain West Co-ops have been involved.

Last year, the drive raised enough money for 1 million meals. This year they hope to double that number, Thompson said.

Reporter Jenna Cederberg can be reached at 523-5241 or at jenna.cederberg@missoulian.com.

via Harvest for Hunger drive to benefit Montana Food Bank Network.